Since everyone has been exploring National Parks this year, we are definitely adding a few more to our travel itineraries. Spring break will take us to Utah’s National Parks, but we are hopeful for California travel this summer. If it happens, Yosemite would be on the list! Thankfully, Victoria of Celebrate the Weekend is showcasing the beauty of Yosemite for us. I love all of her recommendations for Yosemite with kids.
Best Things to Do in Yosemite with kids
With its 800 miles of hiking trails and a total size of 747,956 acres, the grandeur of natural beauty at Yosemite National Park in California might be overwhelming. Surprisingly, we found that there are plenty of family-friendly choices in the Park for family members of all physical abilities to enjoy! Here are our top 5 things to do with kids in Yosemite.
1. Stay in Curry Village (formerly Half Dome Village)
There is a range of lodging options in Yosemite – from bring your own tent campsites to luxurious hotel rooms – but only Curry Village offers an opportunity to stay close to nature while enjoying the modern conveniences in a unique atmosphere of international camping village.
We stayed in a canvas tent cabin that offered the beds with bed linens and blankets and towels for communal bathhouses. There is a swimming pool, postal office, club house, dining hall and a pizza parlor, and even Wi-Fi at the public lounge- all with spectacular views. In the evening there is ranger led programming in a camp theater.
**Remember, no matter what lodging option you choose, booking well in advance is recommended. Here is link to Yosemite’s web site that allows reservations one year and one day ahead.
2. Easy hikes in Yosemite
There are several easy hikes in Yosemite, and some are even paved and stroller-friendly, such as Glacier Point, Cook’s Meadow, and the Valley Loop trails. Check the Yosemite website or use the All Trails app to find easy Yosemite hikes with kids.
Those traveling to Yosemite with teens or older children might enjoy challenging hikes like the trail to Sentinel Dome and Taft Point or Vernal Falls trail.
We chose a moderate level hike to the Footbridge of Vernal Falls. While relatively short (1.4 miles round trip), it was considered a moderate trail due to the 400 feet elevation.
And be sure to make time to explore the Sequoia Groves of Yosemite. There are three groves that can be found in the park: Tuolumne, Merced Grove, and Mariposa Grove. Kids will be fascinated by these giant sequoias.
3. Take the Yosemite Valley shuttle
Leaving your car behind in a parking lot and using free Yosemite Valley shuttle is not only the right (nature-conscious!) thing to do in the Park, it is also a fun and relaxing way to see the park!
The Valley shuttle is an open air bus that takes you to some of the most iconic Yosemite sights: Tunnel View, El Capitan, Half Dome, and Lower Yosemite Falls (there is also a bus to Mariposa Grove in the summer). There are also several guided routes (these ones are fee-based). We took a 2-hour ranger-narrated Valley Floor Tour and enjoyed every minute.
There are multiple paid tours you can book in advance. Yosemite Grand Tour covers Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point, and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. The Glacier Point Tour is four hours exploring from Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point. Moonlight Valley Floor Tour takes visitors to Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, El Capitan, Tunnel View, Bridalveil Fall and more. You really can’t make a bad choice as they are all amazing options.
We booked our tour in the Visitor’s Center in the Half Dome Camp early in morning on the day of the tour (the Centers are open year around in the Valley and seasonally in other areas of the Park).
4. Drive Tioga Road and stop at Tenaya Lake
All of the roads leading in or out of the Yosemite are scenic, but Tioga Road in Yosemite (also known as highway 120/East entrance to the park), with its 39 miles of meadows, sequoia groves, blue lakes and granite domes is probably the most scenic. Tioga Road is typically open from late May through sometime in November (check current road conditions here).
5. Take advantage of the Junior Ranger Program
The Junior Ranger Program (for kids ages 7-13) as well as the other special kids’ activities, are offered in the Half Dome Village and throughout the rest of the park. Be sure to check the Park newspaper Yosemite Guide (available in the park free of charge) for the complete list of daily family activities.
Extra tip: If you are looking for things to do while visiting Yosemite that aren’t hiking, consider a rafting trip on the Merced River, rock climbing with Yosemite Mountaineering School, or go horseback riding through the park. No matter what you choose, you will be able to see Yosemite’s beauty from a completely different perspective.
About the author: Victoria and her family are behind the Celebrate the Weekend blog where they invite families to follow them along on their weekend (and vacation) celebrations – whether it is within an hour from their home in a suburb of Boston or across the globe.
Need more ideas for places to explore in California? Don’t miss the best places to stop on a California road trip with kids!